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Interstellar Trade: Moving up from Tramp


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I think it is widely acknolwedged that the various trade systems produce random cargos and passengers for tramp vessels. This represents the fact that large established businesses and most passengers do not want to deal with small time operators, many of whom have only limited reputations, and may never call to port locally ever again.

The "larger" world of high liners is generally not dealt with.

However, from a developing gam perspective, players could do well, acquire additional ships, and generally move up to a subsector line position.

I was thinking over what it was that the larger businesses had over the tramps. Was it just business size and rep alone? In the ancient, bureaucratized Imperium? Nah.

I was thinking that worlds with would have Commodities Boards (CB), perhaps operated in connection between the world's government and the Imperium (hey, something for the Ministry of Commerce to actually do!).

The size of the CB would vary by the size of the world. It would have offices in starports of C or larger, and offices in the nearest city (on large worlds, it could have several offices). On small worlds, this could be a small office, indeed.

Anyone can technically do business with the CB. Indeed, most transactions, whether they are conducted under a local tree with papers stuck to cork boards on stands, or in a high tech trading pit, are CB-related.

Essentially, when a business gets large enough, it may purchase a seat on a world's CB, for say, MCr10 (or so), plus passing several historical vetting procedures.

Once a business has a seat on a world's CB, it would have the right to do business with all those "other" commodities sources that normally do not deign to sell to smaller operators.

I leave figuring out the benefits of this for some other time, as I am running out the door.

Comments? Silence? Meson-gun attacks?
I like the feel of this - yet another way for the megacorps to strangle smaller competition, which goes well with introspective stagnant late-3I OTU.

This is also a good way to handle the lack of accurate information and instantaneous fund transfers and transactions due to the time-lag. A corporate with seats on the CB would be marked as a reliable trading partner, whose vouchers/scrip/bonds/stock would be respected in the future (and by branches of the same corp on other worlds).
Just keep in mind, buying a seat on the CB has to be profitable to the extent that the cost of the seat has to be a "minor" expense relative to the expected profits...
Actually real world Germany has somethink like this. If you operate a "classical" business like plumber, painter, electrician etc. you MUST be a member in the "Industrie und Handwerkskammer" (Chamber of Industrie and Trade) in addition to being certified as a master craftsman (The latter has been weakened a bit recently). They set guidelines for apprentice training, take apprentice examinations, control that their members adher to certain standards, do lobby work etc. They are regional organisations (81 in germany, an average of 5 per state) so they might actually be an example.

For most smaller companies there is no/not much profit in the membership, just additional paperwork and costs. This get's worse the smaller your company gets with the single self-employed craftsman getting the worst.

Link in german

Another example might be the "Captains Guild" from Elisabeth Moons "Vatta's War" series as well as the concept of their banking houses (That rely on genetic samples in case of doubt)
I'm sorry, I'm being thick and am not sure I understand. Is this how it works?

The purpose of the Commodities board is to regulate imports and exports from a system.

Regulating imports and exports includes:
1. placing tariffs on imports (and occasionally exports) and;
2. Issuing licenses to carriers allowing them to import and export goods in and out of the system.

The Commodities board comprises a system representative, an imperium representative and any number of carrier representative who have paid for seats on the board.

This has the following consequences:

1. As a matter of general principle it will be in the interests of both the system and the Imperium to keep the cost of exports low as this encourages trade. One way to do this would be to encourage competition between carriers, so they would want to license as many as possible. The larger carriers would prefer less competition. I suppose they bargain by volume (i.e. if you license too many carriers, then we may drop this trade route as it will no longer be profitable for us. You, the system and the imperium, will lose the ability to ship a large volume of goods on and off planet). Some sort of equilibrium is reached as to number of carriers licensed and the cost of the license.

2. As a matter of general principle it will be in the system's interest to impose tariffs on some imports where they are cheaper and compete with local industry. This would be against the interest of the Imperium and the Carriers as it would stifle trade.

So where does this leave the small trader?

At one end of the scale it could mean that if he is not licensed to trade in that system his only option is to smuggle. At the other end of the scale if he is not licensed he could incur a tax or have to deal with more beauracracy that licensed carriers don't have to put up with.

I like it, it adds a very easy to use mechanism which is just bristling with adventure hooks.

Benefits of being on the CB could include:

1) Contracts for minimum volumes of Cargo for your ships.

2) Contracts for minimum number of Hi, Mid and Low Passengers on your ships.

3) Access to additional speculative trade items. Either more items or larger volumes.

Any combination of the above would make the seat pay for itself pretty well. I would use the guidelines of a Subsidized Liner for cargo/passengers as a starting point for a CB member ship.

So, those people on all those worlds representing the CB would be called "Factors" and could even represent several worlds out of a small office on the starport.

Can't afford to have a full-time Factor on Woebegone III? Just call Honest Hugo and I will represent you! I represent 14 different planets and satisfaction is guarenteed!
And/or the CB just makes you wait to sell your cargo. Keeping the product artificially scarce by only allowing the stuff to trickle out with the right permits.

So much paperwork. Makes you glad you rolled Admin-2

Gonna need a character with Legal -3 Admin-2 (dare I say Bribery)
So the carrier contracts with the owner of the cargo to transport to a particular location/consignee for a price. the carrier does not have ownership of the cargo - he's simply transporting it.

I suppose that this is where CB licensing comes in handy because if the ship's captain vanishes with the cargo, the owner of the cargo has someone against whom he can obtain redress. In fact the money paid to be on the CB board could be a deposit just for this purpose (so that if the CB representative also does a runner, the cargo owner may still make good his loss from the deposit).

If a cargo owner decides to use a carrier which has no CB affiliation, then he bears the risk if his cargo goes missing.

Not sure I understand your factors, plankowner. wouldn't they be representing carriers rather than planets? So if the characters want to be accredited to trade on Woebegone III they contact Honest Hugo, it is up to him to assess the players and take the risk as to whether he should lend his accreditation to them. If the players do a flit with the cargo, then Hugo has to make it good to the owner on Woebegone. He will then hire the bounty hunter to go after the players.

I guess it's a bit like the CB rep also acting as an insurer.
Sounds a lot like the old Hanse or the old craftsmans guild. Without being "introduced" by a Hanse member you had little to no chance for business in a Hanse town. And without being a guild member you could not work in a town.

Well, unless you where willing to take trade from/to Helgoland that is...

As for the Factors, they might represent both. Say you already are accredited on WeMadeIt and LookAtThat and you also want to trade with Tanith or Sparta. So you get yourself a "letter of introduction" (actually an electronically signed document) and present that to the Factor of LookAtThat on Sparta. He checks it and then presents it (and you) to the CB on Sparta as "a member in good standing of the LookAtThat CB". If you do not live up to the praise, the CB of LookAtThat will have to cover for the damage you did.

If OTHO you want to start trading, you need the Factor of a carrier (say your former employee) to vouch for you. Since quite a few Free Traders start with a ship sold off from/financed by their former employee, this is a natural for the line (They wouldn't have given you the ship otherwise) If you do not live up to the trust, your former employee will have to cover for the damage.

If you got your ship from another source - Good luck getting cargo.

Personally, I'd rather cross a CB than say Tukera or Oberlindes.

Sounds like a good concept because:

+ It forces the players to interact with the better of and behave/dress correctly there

+ It opens another avenue for intrigue and a look into the "big picture"

+ It gives a reason why a Free Trader does get involved in shady deals or would be willing to engage in high risk jobs ("If you do this twelve jobs for me, I sponsor you at the CB of Meijii)
Perhaps the extremely lucrative government and military contracts are assigned at this level, as well.
Are you implying that these contacts are handed out based on "I know him" and "We where in the same student union" rather than based on "best offer" and "best product" citizen? That borders on agitation against the Empire!
Well, we already know that trying to analyze intersteller Imperial economics is a doomed enterprise to begin with (or a subject with unlimited options, depending on how you look at it); this, at least, provides a colorful tool for both the referee and the players. Something to fight; something to benefit from; something to get in the way.

Ah, the Good Old Boys' network is alive and well.

The local nobility would probably call it "protecting our trade interests". ;)
Didn't the "nobility" start off this way in the first place... ;)

Trade with Cleon and look at the benefits